Stef Penny is a Scottish author who seems to fly under the radar, at least here in the states. She is a screenwriter and has written many adaptations for radio, too. She is a former agoraphobic who oddly enough, or maybe because of, has a special relationship with wide open spaces and isolated people, and she is drawn to write about them. I have been a fan of hers since her first book, The Tenderness of Wolves (2006), which won Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year. Her second book, The Invisible Ones, came out in 2011, and it is that book that I'm featuring here today. And, I'm delighted to announce that Stef Penny has a new book coming out next Tuesday, September 5th, entitled Under a Pole Star. There is a lot of time between Penny's books, but they are well worth the wait. I hope that, with only three to catch up on, readers and reader friends of mine will give themselves the treat of this gem of an author and her amazing stories.
In a hospital bed, small-time private detective Ray Lovell veers between
paralysis and delirium. But before the accident that landed him there,
he’d been hired to find Rose Janko, the estranged daughter of a
traveling Gypsy family, who went missing seven years earlier.
Romany himself, Ray is well aware that he’s been chosen more for his
blood than for his investigative skills. Still, he’s surprised by the
intense hostility he encounters from the Jankos, who haven’t had an easy
past. Touched by tragedy, they’re either cursed or hiding a terrible
secret—the discovery of which Ray can’t help suspecting is connected to
Seamlessly toggling between Ray’s
past and present, and the perspective of the missing woman’s young
nephew JJ, Stef Penney builds a gripping page-turner that doesn’t let go
until its shocking end.
I've been waiting and waiting for a new Stef Penney since reading and loving her debut novel, The Tenderness of Wolves. Well, the wait was worth it. Stef Penney has written another great novel that delves into the secret lives of people who are set apart from the mainstream life of the world. In this latest novel, it is the Gypsy life of the Travelers that is the focus of the action and the mystery involving a missing woman of that life. While many Gypsies have left the road and settled in "brick," or permanent houses in the 1980's England, the small group of which this missing woman was a part is still living in their trailers and banding together for support. Ray Lovell, who is half Romany himself, is hired as the investigator by Rose Janko's father to find out what happened to his daughter seven years ago when she disappeared. As in her first novel, Penney has shown great skill at creating an isolated world full of secrets and survival. Her ability to give the reader characters that draw the reader in and keep said reader riveted to their unfolding lives is second to none. The story is told in alternating chapters by Lovell, starting with his near death hospitalization and working backwards for a while, and by J.J. Janko, a teenage member of the Janko group of Travelers from which Rose disappeared. I was fascinated with the insights into the Romany life. I finished this book quickly, as I just couldn't stop reading its captivating story. I do hope that Ms. Penney doesn't keep me waiting as long for her next brilliant book as she did this one. She is an extraordinary talent, and we readers are lucky to have her.